Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Year in Review

It is official – we live in a mud hole. Two days of unseasonably warm temperatures have left a disgustingly dirty landscape. It is actually the same temperature in Thunder Bay as it is in London at this moment – which is above 0 Celsius! Don’t get me wrong – I love warmth….unfortunately the mud that warmth creates a pain in the *ss. I went for a walk and came back with a coating of dirt…more laundry…grrrr….but it has been a pretty nice reprieve from the unseasonably cold temperatures (what ever happened to the average?).
Christmas was pretty quite – I struggled through two days without Starbucks, but held my head up high. Actually I just mainly ate…and ate…and ate. I have effectively ensured that I do not have to eat again until July; good stuff – great food.

Ok, so I’ve talked about the previous necessity for teachers to reflect on their lessons, abilities, etc. Today I’m reflecting on the past year, because I’m not really sure where it has gone!! No…there is more to this reflection than meets the eye; it was exactly a year ago that a recruitment agency contacted me about moving to….England…

December 27, 2007: Contacted by I*act Teachers in London, asking whether or not I would be interested in moving to England…sure! Why not?

Lulled in my own complacency for the majority of the month (2008 got off to a slow start); continued on a diet that I had started in late 2007 (ok this diet has been a substantial part of my year); interviewed with I*pact and decided that I wanted to move to England ASAP – but I was entirely detached from this decision, mainly because I was stagnating in my complacency (it also gave me an excuse to not look for a Thunder Bay job!)

Continued to stagnate in my complacency – truly I enjoyed it. Started to become a little disenfranchised with my recruiting agency, and began to look towards more lucrative pastures. Took a brief escape to Edmonton, just in time for a wicked deep freeze - returned to Thunder Bay in time the same deep freeze. Continued to obsess about health and weight.

Found a new recruiting agency, was interviewed by them, then quickly interviewed (and was hired) by a school in Banbury, England (this whole evolution took place in about a week); still completely disassociated with the whole decision, and quickly applied for a visa. This included a trip to Ottawa over March break – Ottawa had a record snowfall that weekend (a mere 50cm or more fell on the city overnight). That was kind of cool. Ha! Showed a Kobalt in a dog show, and had a great weekend with him – finished a couple of titles. Oh ya….and weight and such.

There was a plane ride, and suddenly I was in England, clueless. My agency, relieved that I was in England, kind of flew the coup. I quickly learned the distinction of what an academy is – and why you don’t necessarily want to teach in one (its not as prestigious as it sounds!). Also learned that I had undercut myself by about £5000. I was not off to a good start, and out of the disassociative decision arose panic. Ultimately I jumped too quickly, and really hadn’t made sure that there was water in the pool. Lessons learned. I*act asked me to stop into their offices on my way through London. Sure? Why not? I’ll try again. I think. Oh yeah – and worried incessantly about the weight thing (especially since I had established myself in my neighbourhood local, and was drinking a fair amount of beer).

Reflection. Increasing complacency, and much time spent pondering the future. Briefly became a resident at Starbucks. Spent the majority of the month pondering whether or not I really wanted to go back to England. And – dieting…and exercise.

More reflection. Plenty of time spent at city parks chasing geese with Kobalt. Quickly began to realize that I had no long term aspirations for making a career out of goose patrol. Not that I don’t like the job or Kobalt…
Out of boredom I decided to take classes in English and Political Science. Political Science and I got along really well; I wasn’t abstract enough to make it through English (seriously, what is the point of paying for this sort of course?).

Continued to work on goose control. Pondered England some more. Dieting. Ya that sums it up. Kobalt and I started herding sheep again, and had a really tumultuous start to our herding season…

A repetition of July. Just more geese, and it was moderately warmer and less rainy than July.

Great start – Kobalt finished an ASCA herding title (really it had nothing to do with me, I just watch him work and am basically a third tit). Two days after I decided to get off the pot, quit pondering, and go back to England - this time to London. The rest of the month was spent getting ready for that…and working for Elections Canada (isn’t that a joke now?)…and goosing…and working at a school…September was a moderate blur. Somewhere along the line I was also dieting…k, you really have to understand how much that dieting thing impacted 2008!

The month began in a haze of work; actually I worked right up until 2 hours before my flight departed for Toronto. While in Toronto there was a bit of panic when the flight attendants realized the plane was “broken” but were not sure why (note to Air Canada: some information is best left unshared). Arrived in London, and quickly settled into a six week stint of moving aimlessly through Pimlico between hostels, hotels, apartments, etc. Then came the fallout of the Credit Crunch, which the BBC jumped on like a bee to honey. Quickly became re-disillusioned with my recruitment agency, after a week long delay in work, and mediocre results in securing work. Random trips to Sheffield and Leeds…more weight worries, but interspersed with awesome curry.

Continuing worries. Misdirected information. Money, money, money. I realized I needed another agency, but until that happened I might as well just go home. Unfortunately I was settling into London when I decided to get out – funny how that works! Discovered Caffe Nero’s hot chocolate (not really the life changing thing you would expect in a year end reflection, but it is REALLY good). Oh wait…and Obama…the teenage girls in my classes were absolutely in love with Obama…as a side note, can we start to be honest about why he is seen as the “progressive” change!?!?!! Oh yes, and the credit crunch continued – but for some reason the American dollar gained strength against the Canadian dollar, and yet the British pound lost value against everyone (which adversely effected the daily wage…eeks)

Reflection. Reaffirmation in the sheer boringness of my thesis. Alexandra won X Factor. Waiting. Hope that I have finally found a decent recruiter. Reaffirmation that I can’t keep coming back to Thunder Bay (finding a career in a city without hope, is…hopeless.) And that brings us to today – having gone full circle; a year to the day that the England thing started…still worried about weight…and sure I’ll go to England…why not?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Queen's Christmas Message

In all honesty, while searching Youtube for Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video, I came across the Queen's Christmas Message.

Queen's Address

If you are interested in viewing the Queen's Christmas Message, click the above link.

If you are more interested in the Beyonce video, please click the link below :-p

Beyonce's Video

☆.;:+*'`'*+:;..;:+*'`'*+:;.Merry Christmas!!!.;:+*'`'*+:;..;:+*'`'*+:;.☆

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

For the Holidays...

The Holiday Season is Here!!

Merry Christmas Feliz Navidad Joyeux Noel Geseënde Kersfee Hyvaa joulua
Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Nollaig chridheil huibh

(and I could go on....)


Friday, 19 December 2008

The Culture of Football and Why You Don't Insult our Game

If you ever felt so inspired as to read my profile, you can see that I have a background in Anthropology. What this actually means is that I have a degree that is fairly useless for employment, but it does help me to evaluate certain situations differently. When I travel, I can help subside culture shock, but attempting to look at things through a cultural lens; it’s the social scientist approach to life. Last year, while in Guatemala, I was driven crazy by a woman who constantly compared everything to Canada.
“Oh my goodness…look at that…we don’t have that in Canada.”
“Look at the poverty! We don’t have that kind of poverty in Canada.”
“Look at the children! Our children our so much better off in Canada.”
“Oh look at the school…our schools are so much better in Canada.”
“F*ck Canada.” (did I say that?!?!)
Finally, driven to the brink of frustration, I finally had a bit of a falling out with her after an argument over the situation on our northern Reserves. Afterwards, I did my best to avoid her (mainly because I did not want to act on my desire to slap some sense into her). My feeling is – if you want to travel, you have to be prepared for the fact that things will be different, and that you can’t evaluate “them” based on “us” (yes, you might know this mentality under the formal name of the us-them dichotomy). Casting judgements leads to ethnocentrism. Instead, we need to look at different cultures through the realm of cultural relativism (pardon the anthropological terms…I studied anthropology for a long time; using three anthropological terms in the course of this blog posting makes me feel somewhat better about my education).

While teaching in London, I was initially struck by how different things were. I would not say that I had culture shock – believe me, after the amount of time I spent in New Orleans, London is far from a culture shock! The toughest thing I experienced in London was adapting to an urban setting; traffic without trees. It cannot be denied that students are challenging – especially compared to what we are used to in Thunder Bay. In order to understand it, you must take a cultural approach – there is more at stake than what is simply seen on the surface. London, being the melting pot that it has become, experiences a vast array of cultural influences. So you must remember; every culture evaluates structured education differently; as such, these differences play out in the classroom.

That’s not the point though…football (European not American) is my point. Recently I was told by a Brit, that hockey fights are staged for the audience. They are nothing more than scripted fights as those witnessed in the WWF. Of course, being a Canadian, and a fan of hockey (and admittedly someone who enjoys a good hockey throw-down), I defended our national pastime (not to be confused with our national sport, which is actually lacross). Come on – what does a Brit know about hockey??? K…so that p*ssed me off a bit, and I’m still bitter.

When I began this whole British experience nearly a year ago, I decided that I would learn about their pastime – football (which I still referred to as "soccer"). This was mainly because I find that male students are easier to deal with when you can engage them in sports talk. I was also perplexed by soccer mentality. It is a scary, scary world! While we North Americans are avid followers of our sports leagues (NHL, NFL, NBA, etc), we tend not to bleed for our sports. Though I do recall a drunken night, during the Lewis-Tysen fight, that a friend (who was a Lewis fan) decided to brawl with a Tyson fan - luckily vodka and the crowded bar made this nothing more than a talked about idea (but don't think that our cab driver wasn't amused by my friend's drunken rage)- but that isn't the norm...European football fans are a whole other story!! It is life or death. No…I’m wrong…Bill Shankly once claimed that "some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that. " And it is.

I am not sure there has been such a violent sport in recent history – and no…not out on the field, but between the fans. The same person who insulted hockey has also attempted to educate me on football. Unfortunately, he being a Liverpool fan, and me being me (meaning I like to prod the bull), I quickly learned that the fastest way to p*ss off a Liverpool fan is to cheer for Manchester United. Insult hockey, and I will find a way to retaliate.

I am a foreigner who was not brought up in the ways of football, and as such, I will never truly understand it. So here is what I know about football (in a nutshell). I know some of the top names now (unfortunately the majority of these names are associated with, or have been associated with Liverpool, so I can’t say that I have had the most unbiased education), I know the standings, and the difference between the Championship League and Premier League, and some of the basic rules. But the sport itself is of little interest to me. Watching guys running up and down a field, while kicking a black and white ball is a tad bit redundant (when the score is 2-0 with 20 minutes remaining, and the commentators can predict a victory, that is a little bit…boring…) – but the fans – that’s where the true action is. So here is what else I know: if you are a true fan, you must be prepared to bleed for your team. You wear your colours proudly, and when enemies stray into your territory wearing their colours, you must be prepared to kick the cr*p out of them. If you are caught in enemy territory, you must be prepared to defend your team diligently. Life or death and so much more. We as Canadians tend not identify ourselves based on our team affiliation – football fans do. That’s commitment.

I now leave you with quotes and links that best show footballer mentality.

“I know this is a sad occasion but I think that Dixie would be amazed to know that even in death he could draw a bigger crowd than Everton can on a Saturday afternoon.” (Bill Shankly at Dixie Dean’s funeral)

“The rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn't move, kick it until it does” Phil Woosnam

“I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting.” George Orwell

“I'm sure sex wouldn't be so rewarding as this World Cup. It's not that sex isn't good but the World Cup is every four years and sex is not.” Ronaldo

“In Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team” Luis Suarez

“If this can be termed the century of the common man, then soccer, of all sports, is surely his game.... In a world haunted by the hydrogen and napalm bomb, the football field is a place where sanity and hope are still left unmolested” Stanley Rous
As I find better links I will update :-p

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Rerecruitment and Sexing a Thesis

I am presently praying that I am hired by an agency that I was interviewed by last week. It is sort of my dream agency. After having spent time with two other agencies, and having researched countless others, I have developed a fairly decent “bullsh*t” detector. This new agency is run by a recruiter who has not only taught in London, but did so for three years! I have become accustomed to the generic answers that recruiters give – and let me tell you, it can be highly frustrating. Promise are made, and my “best interests are always at heart”. This recruiter has impressed me because she doesn’t give the “everything is merry in England” answers. She knows that I know that this isn’t the case. So I am praying – I want to get back to England before I become too comfortable at home (and it is starting!). I also want to get back to work. I’m bored. No, not really bored…just missing money. I also miss acting like a grown up everyday. When I went to work in London I felt like I was playing dress up – let’s face it, I don’t dress professionally in Thunder Bay. In London I got to play with clothes and scarves (the art of pashmina)…oh…and heels. I’m not sure that it’s a good thing that at 28 I still see getting “dressed up for work” as playing grown up, but whatever works, right?

In the mean time this new agency has introduced me to and I am completely addicted. I am particularly addicted to “Teaching with Bayley”. John Bayley is an education consultant who was ranked as outstanding by OFSTED (and has nothing to do with Iris Murdoch as far as I know!); and let me tell you, I am pretty impressed. After having more insight into the world of British classrooms by way of these programs, I am feeling a bit more at ease. The recruiter told me that if I watch one of these videos daily, I will be a far better teacher for it – I’m watching a lot more than one on a daily basis, because I am hooked! Along with the Bayley videos are countless others, dealing in a full range of topics (thankfully behaviour management as well!). also has a full section for NQTs (which technically I am not an NQT to UK standards, but I am in Canadian standards – don’t worry, I understand what I am trying to say!)…anyway, all I am saying is that is a good resource. Especially during moments of procrastination and lately there have been plenty of those moments.

Oh yeah, and I’m still dealing with my thesis. He (because my thesis is now an individual) and I still don’t really like one another. In a month I have only successfully completed a partial rewrite of the chapter that I previously written. Progress is slow and interest is waning. I still love bison, and I love studying bones – it is writing about either topic that is a problem for me. Every time I sit down to write, I feel like I’ve been condemned to prison. Unfortunately I cannot apply to the University of Liverpool until I am finished my sentence.

All I know is that my thesis is coming to England with me – yay, more luggage. I also know that when I do go back to overseas, its going to be a very fast return – none of this booking a ticket two months in advance crap – nope, I know what to do when I get there now. I have experience (who’d of thought?). Hoping this agency likes me (please!), I sort of know when I’m heading back over, and truth be told, I can’t wait!!!!!!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Announcing a name change...

Time for some housekeeping….in the near future I will be changing the domain name of this blog. Why? Because employers are becoming more internet savvy, and have taken to google searching their employees. The internet has taken away a great deal of privacy - not that I'm complaining; I'm an avid googler. Given that I began this blog when I apparently did not care about my anonymity (actually I just wasn’t thinking), it is fairly easy to access when my name is googled. It sort of stifles what I say, and I have decided that I don’t want to be stifled anymore. I also don’t need potential employers to know how indecisive I am. Nor do I need future students to know about my real life. I also have two other blogs, hosted on different providers. I have made the effort to start transferring their information over to blogspot. It has not gone well – mainly because I procrastinate.
Anyway, if all goes according to plan, you can expect this blog to be under the new URL of

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

My Happy Place

It is incredibly cold outside, and I need a moment to rediscover my happy place.

Left: A beach in was warm :)

Right: Somewhere in was hot

Left: Lago Atitlan basicaly these places were hot, and at the time I was melting. Now I am kind of missing it. *sigh*

Cycling by the Bay

Winter has hit us again, and in a very not-nice sort of way. A weekend snowstorm has left us with snow drifts, and very icy winds. Now that the snow is over, we are left with frigid temperatures (-40 celsius with the wind chill). I’m not a huge fan of frostbite. Or winter. My ideal winter includes palm trees, tequila, and sunny beaches; I should be living in Mexico. The temperatures aren’t my complaint though. Noooo…Thunder Bay mentality is my complaint.

I applaud anyone who is concerned about the environment and is taking positive steps towards changing their life in a way to benefit the environment. I am keen on recycling (though I question how much material is truly recycled). I support reductions in emissions, and an overhauling of the forestry industry that would see the protection of forests (I’m sorry – but let’s think about this: clear cutting will eventually mean there are no trees left; we are stuck in immediate rewards, with little consideration of the future). Yes, given where I live, my views of forestry are somewhat controversial. I am concerned about mining, and am even more concerned about the prospects of raping the environment of all natural resources; I don’t care how “sustainable” mine development is – you cannot mine without some sort of impact. Again, a situation of short term gains, without long term consideration.

Ok, so while I do have concerns for the environment, I can also identify stupidity. While I understand the whole notion of cycling over motoring, I think there ought to be limits. Thunder Bay was not designed with cyclists in consideration. Our roads, even at the best of times, are seemingly dangerous places for bikes. So why, during a snow storm, and during the aftermath (when the roads are reduced in size, iced over, and generally hazardous) do cyclists feel the need to compete with motorists? We have public transit in this city – use it! Furthermore- if you truly feel the need to share the road with vehicles, then obey the laws! Yes, that means you can stop at the red lights too. Don’t suddenly decide to use the pedestrian crossing so that you can proceed through the intersection. Don’t run through the stop sign. Don’t ride two abreast. And I could go on.

In London, all cyclists wear yellow vests, helmets, have flashing head and tail lights, and are required to be well marked. And in Thunder Bay????
Hmmm….is that a cyclist up ahead? In the dark clothes? No lights? No reflectors? I think so….
Every now and then, when there is a fatality involving a cyclist, there is a public outcry regarding the lack of regard that the average driver has for bikers. Nothing is mentioned of the disregard that the majority of cyclists have for road laws in this city, nor is anything mentioned of their overall irresponsibility.

It blows me away that during horrendous weather (such as what we experienced this past weekend) cyclists will actually step out to compete on already dangerous roads. Oh and Lakeshore Drive – I understand that we don’t have public transit in Shuniah. If you want to live in the country, and do not want to drive, or do not own a vehicle, or do not have access to carpooling, I suggest that you take time to seriously consider whether or not you should live in the country. Unfortunately cars and trucks rule the road – I’m not saying its right, but that is the way it is. We are not Europe…our roads are not meant for cyclists and motorists to live harmoniously, and especially not during the winter. Rarely do you see motorcycles during the winter months – should that not be a prime indication to cyclists? Yes, I’m venting – but isn’t it time that road rules applied to everyone??!??!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Commercial

I have consumed a lot of caffeine during the past hour, and you will have to forgive me because my mind is vibrating. Luckily overdosing on caffeine has helped to dim last night’s hangover. At nineteen I was able to slug an ungodly amount of alcohol down my throat, and feel no ill effects in the morning (trust me, I tested this on a regular basis). If there was any latent discomfort it could be easily cured by greasy food. That was then. This is now. Now, the idea of eating a ton of grease makes me want to hurl. The larger issue – I can tolerate a fraction of the alcohol that I used to be able to. I can see I have work to do over the Christmas holidays.

Yep. Christmas. It’s officially the Christmas season. Actually I am fairly certain that it has been the “Christmas season” since sometime around Labour Day. It was fairly shocking that while the UK faced economic collapse, the solution was to begin Christmas in early October. Stores quickly threw up their decorations, moderately impressive sales were implemented, and Christmas music started to blare from speakers. This music is nauseating at the best of times – three solid months of it is downright cruel. And really…I’m not sure that this was the best approach to the Credit Crunch. Christmas is a fairly expensive time of year, and reminding consumers that they are financially destitute does not really seem very festive. Amidst daily reports of bank closures, bankruptcies, job losses and global financial meltdowns, reminding Mom & Dad that Johnny wants an Xbox, iPod, and Blackberry just finishes the gutting.

This year I am not doing Christmas – at least not in the conventional sense. I have no desire to decorate (and really, unless you have kids, or entertainment plans, why bother?), and I refuse to the gift thing. Oh yeah, I know; “The Spirit of the Season” is in gift giving. Not true. This is commercialistic idea, and I am sick of the commercialism of Christmas. I am tired of stores encouraging us to spend copious amounts of money on presents and trying to further the idea that love is somehow reflected by the amount of money that is spent on each individual. That is not the essence of Christmas. Johnny doesn’t need an Xbox. Suzy doesn’t need a new Blackberry Pearl. David doesn’t need the newest Nintendo. It shocks me when I see what parents purchase for their children. I realize that it is entirely the prerogative of the parent to do so – but let’s be realistic.

As you can tell by this blog, I work in schools, and have for almost a decade. It is time for parents to face the reality of their expensive gift giving habits. Firstly, I am absolutely shocked by what kids bring to school. Technology that is more expensive than I even wish to comprehend! Actually, I don’t even understand half of the technology that they show up with. Why these kids have these items at school is beyond me. But they do – and when these items go “missing”, teachers and support staff are left to deal with the consequences. I applaud the ever increasing number of schools banning many of these items from their halls. Here is the reality: kids are not little adults, and no matter how many times parents lecture their kids on the “value of money” (which most children hear as “blah blah blah”), and no matter how “mature”, “advanced”, or “understanding” Johnny is for his age, they are still kids. If parents saw how some of these items were treated while at school, they would likely be shocked too.

Oh but wait – here is what I love, and here is when you realize just how materialistic, dismissive and unappreciative our culture has become…oh yes…if you work in schools, you know what I am talking about…it’s the “My Parents Will Replace It” mentality. Ya. Who cares that the iPod is smashed? My parents will buy me a new one. Who cares that I dropped my entertainment system? We’ll go to the store later and replace it. This mentality is best reflected in how students now treat communal property.

I am of the Commodore 64 era. Yes, junky, boxy computers which were the biggest novelty of their time. We did not mess with those computers – we didn’t dare. Firstly, having a computer in the classroom was a HUGE deal! You didn’t dare do anything that cold possibly damage it – heck, you didn’t even touch it without supervision. If you were caught “messing” with it, there would be consequences! There was a hundred foot safe zone around those computers. For a brief time in the 80s, the computers were actually treated better than the students.
Now fast forward to 2008 – computers (including their value) have long been taken for granted by students. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is replaceable. If it breaks, buy a new one. As such, kids don’t think twice about tossing balls or other items in close proximity (and trust me, even in classrooms with excellent behaviour management it still happens!) and will more than willingly eat, drink and be merry around the classroom PC. It’s the prime indication of how far we have come.

So back to Christmas – I won’t be doing the whole Christmas stress thing this year. I see no point. I won’t be made to feel guilty for not spending overwhelming amounts of money (that I don’t have), and I won’t feel forced to create the “perfect Christmas”. But I will eat. Just because I have no intentions of overspending, I will definitely be enjoying a nice turkey dinner, with gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and whatever else is piled on to my plate – don’t think for a second that I will forgo that! HA!! But in all seriousness, Christmas as lost something in our culture – when I look around at the stressed out faces, and see the grimaces of pain each time a credit card is swiped, is it really worth it? Shouldn’t it just be about spending a nice day with your family, without being paid to do so? The beautiful gifts become the ultimate form of bribery, and maybe its time to see Christmas for what it has become. Sad, but true.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Trucks for Christmas

I'm not really a big fan of Christmas - its pretty commercialized now, and I refuse to feel the stress of the season. Even so, the one thing that I really enjoy going to is the yearly Truck Parade. I had great intentions of taking pictures of it this year. Unfortunately due to the extremely painful cold, and the fact that our truck died (so I couldn't warm up) I was stuck with this picture of McDonalds (ooooooh) taken through the truck window, and a couple blurry shots of trucks. Even so, the parade was awesome!! But cold.

Winter Wonderland...brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Winter has definitely reared its ugly head this year. The temperatures are already far below where I like them (ok, I’ll admit anything under 5 celsius is below what I deem acceptable) and we are definitely having a White Christmas. We have been incredibly spoiled during the past several years; snow has been late in coming, as has the incredibly cold weather – we’ve kind of become desensitized to the realities of living in the north. In the process of being spoiled, I had forgotten just how much I despise the northern winter. I am not a cold weather person. I like snow after it has freshly fallen; when the trees have that beautiful, clean coating, and the world is wonderland. Unfortunately this is short lived, and is generally replaced by brown ugliness. Therefore I could do without snow.
It has also again made me wonder what is worse? A UK winter (dark by 3:30pm, rain, cloudiness, etc) or a Northern Canadian winter (snow, cold, cold, cold). The one advantage to the Canadian winter is that we still receive a fair amount of sun. Thunder Bay also has the great luck of having daylight until 5pm. Hmm…it’s a difficult call. Somehow the answer seems more clearcut when I step out the door and am blasted by cold weather, whereby making it impossible to breath…but still…tough call…

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What Happend to Privacy?

I am a fairly private person – which makes the whole notion of this blog somewhat ironic. But as previously mentioned this blog is about the mapping of my sanity (or something like that). It often amazes me how open some individuals are. I am currently at Starbucks (big surprise, ya ya), but not my usual Starbucks. How Thunder Bay ended up with two Starbucks is beyond me (not including the Safeway’s versions). In a population that is slowly declining, in an economy that is struggling, high-end coffee-shops don’t really seem to make much sense. Tim Horton’s, the blue collar equivalent, thrives here. And rightly so – coffee is far less expensive, and the treats along with being less expensive, are far more sugary. Yet for some reason, Starbucks apparently does well too. Maybe is makes us feel a little bit more metropolitan and connected to the international community. I don’t really know, and that’s not really what I am here to write about.

Anyway – this whole privacy thing. There is presently a couple sitting across from me, engaged in a discussion. Loudly. I am wearing a headset, listening to another overrated British musician (don’t get me wrong, I actually like the music). It’s not that they are talking loudly – that doesn’t bug me – it is the nature of their conversation that is bugging me. And since they are talking so loudly, I am going to talk about it on my blog, because they obviously aren’t overly concerned about their privacy. The woman is discussing her past “issues” – mainly mother issues. She apparently has learned a great deal about herself in the past year, and learned that her mother is controlling her. She has finally figured out what is wrong with her, and where her issues stem from (apparently from her mother). And she is improving on her issues, and so on…the man nods periodically in response, a look of profoundness on his face. His body language screams, “Yes, I understand your dilemma…I am caring…your tits look great in that top….blah…”

Yesterday, again at Starbucks (my usual location), I was lucky enough to over hear a conversation regarding divorce. I use the term “overhear” loosely. I didn’t have to “overhear” it – it was public. These types of conversations are routine – the ones in which people feel obliged to share their personal distress – and usually their distress is pretty much a mood-kill. You can’t just sit their in your previously jovial state – it just seems rude. If you are with friends, you become sort of obliged to look miserable. And then it gets awkward. So much for discussing last night’s drunken antics – there is misery at the next table.

Periodically I encounter people who want to talk to me. They see me typing on my laptop, see that I’m alone, and want to engage me in conversation. In London, nobody ever wanted to talk. Here there is no consideration for the fact that I don’t want to be engaged. The problem isn’t that they want to talk – I don’t mind general conversation. I mind the type of conversation that I am privy to – people who want to discuss their personal lives (really personal), or unload their problems on to me. I am more than willing to listen to the problems of my friends; strangers are another issue all together. And it’s a mood-kill. For an hour a day I come to Starbucks to escape my head, and try to breath. Having someone take me from that, removes me from my momentary relief.

I know this might be rude; maybe it is the influence of London talking; but seriously…not everyone wants to know…not everyone wants to hear…and while I can appreciate that we all have problems, and situations beyond our control…and situations that weight heavily on our minds, not everything is meant to be shared. If you want to discuss your personal problems in public, please, do it quietly…that’s all I’m asking – have some moderate consideration for the rest of unhappy society.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

I don't bend that way! Really.

Periodically in life, you find yourself in those situations where you can have one of two responses: you can laugh…or you can cry. When I returned to Thunder Bay I decided that I wanted to start taking classes at one of our local gyms. I haven’t been in a gym in a couple of years. I used to have a gym membership – and it turned out to be great incentive for me to work out at home. Eventually I got rid of the membership.

I have started taking these gym classes as something to do, and to help me get out of my house. Things have changed since I took “gym classes” in high school…for instance, BOSU? What in the world is BOSU? You can also take BOSU lite (appropriately spelled incorrectly), just in case you aren’t ready for regular BOSU. Add on every specialized stretch class humanly possible (they now offer classes targeted to specific muscle groups – apparently I go to the gym for an anatomy lesson). Oh and “spinning” – do you realize that I thought a spin class actually meant spinning in circles? Little did I know it is just a fancy term for stationary bikes. Ooooh ahhhh. And mental note – any class that has “challenging” in the description, really is, and is best avoided. Unless you are really hardcore about working out, and that is simply crazy.

So on Monday I decided to take one of these classes, mainly because it didn’t have “challenging” listed in the description. It was a dance class. Ok it was a ballet class (yes and if you know me, you can interject your laughter here). And during this dance class, my instructor gets herself into this cute, intricate pose that involved having her head touching the floor while her legs were spread eagle, and arms outstretched and I really could go on. What was appalling was that she expected the rest of us to follow her lead! Again, this class was not listed as “challenging”. It was at that point that I realized that there is a difference between the body of an 18 year old and the body of a 28 year old (though I’m not sure that I could have done this pose a decade ago). I could have cried (I wanted to, especially after I felt every muscle in my body protested my attempts at replicating the pose), but instead I laughed – out loud. I think I may have also thrown in a “You want me to do what?!?! HA!”.

Two days later my body is still writhing in pain. I would like to think that my muscles are inflexible due to the type of exercises that I do. Probably not, but mental conditioning is part of working out. Needless to say I will go through the ordeal again. I mean, my muscles are already hurting, so why not condition them to appreciate the pain? Or condition them to be flexible? I’m just saying…you can either laugh or cry; and that’s what life is all about.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Lessons to London

Two weeks back in the Bay, and as far out in left field as ever. I don’t know if it is to my advantage that I still feel displaced. Usually, when you return from a vacation, or time abroad, it takes you a couple of days to get back into your schedule. Yes, you pine for the experience, but life goes on again. It is inevitable.

My life isn’t going on….

Maybe it was because I was not vacationing; maybe it was because I went with the intent to stay, but I am not readjusting to my life. I am in limbo, and am moderately displaced. London was my independence, my career, and my ambition. Home is my safety net, in which I can hide from all challenges. This time though, the challenge is in being home. Honestly, I am OK with the displacement at the moment – that is what keeps me motivated to return. I am continually asked- why not teach in Thunder Bay? Ontario? Canada? Closer to home? etc etc etc. That is where people miss the point. If I am going to teach, I want the full experience. I want to live on my own, in a place completely separated from Thunder Bay, have the career, and the independence. God, I want my independence. I want to say that I can cope with change, experience what most people only dream of, and be the person that I thought I was.

I am still kicking myself for coming back here. I made the mistake of letting my emotions govern my head, in a moment of weakness. I should have just gone out and signed with another agency. But then, there was that substantial financial risk – I could still be sitting in London with moderate amounts of work. And stressing about it; so much stress! Instead, I disrupted my transition by returning here, which in retrospect I should not have done. Why? Because when I go back, I will have to start from emotional scratch again – right?

The past year has posed many challenges, and yet I am not sure I am any further ahead. Maybe in personal growth (if you want to look at it from a teacher’s perspective!! HA HA HA). It has been a year since I decided to loose my university weight. I still have a bit to go, but that has been moderately successful, yet an emotional rollercoaster ride. I can’t say that I’ve particularly enjoyed it (but that is a whole separate blog entry!). Then there was Banbury. Oh Banbury….what can be said about that? I wasn’t ready for Banbury – I made so many mistakes in deciding to go. Aside from taking a terrible contract, I emotionally wasn’t ready. So disassociated from my decision was I, that I rushed into a decision with no prior knowledge. Is that not the basis of teaching? Prior knowledge, scaffolding, etc. I know the buzz terms and yet, I do not live by them. So what brought me to Banbury – the realization that I was suddenly hitting an age in which I am supposed to have answers. Suddenly I needed to have my career, be moved out of my family home, have a direction, and have the future all figured out. Leap first…

I was far from ready for Banbury though. I was so scared about weight (sad, but true), money, my career decision, etc. Add all of the apprehension and uncertainty and Banbury was on route for a cataclysmic crash. Under the right circumstances (or mentality) I could have made the bad contract work out. I tried to change my life overnight (and still remain emotionally detached from it) and that does not happen.

And so back to Thunder Bay I went. And I was OK when I got here. I expected to have a crash when I returned, but I did not. I went on living, although still detached from my life. I did not really think too much about Banbury, and yet debated myself on a daily basis. And over time, as I numbed Banbury, I realized that I wanted to return to England and try again. Wait…no…it wasn’t nearly so romantic as it sounds. One day I woke up and realized that I needed to either sh*t or get off the pot (that is the expression, after all) and decided to stop debating myself, and go back to England. I wasn’t disassociated from this decision; I had every emotion possible.

And then came London. Moving is always a difficult task; for some reason it is harder when there is an ocean between you and home. That “home will always be there” mentality doesn’t really help. No matter how you try to convince yourself that “home is merely a plane ride away”, it is still an incredibly lonely experience. You have two options – either let that loneliness consume you, or force yourself to integrate with society. I let my loneliness consume me – initially. Sometimes you forget about that lag-time – you know what I mean; the time between continual upheaval and settling. Moving to London was a huge upheaval, and settling seemed like a distant illusion. Then arises the larger problem (and I did discuss this while in London) – integrating your home life with your present life. Two lives? No I’m not crazy (much).

When you try to establish a new life, completely separated from your familiarity, you begin to see your old life slipping away. You start to worry about your old life forgetting you. I had this plan that I could lessen the blow by staying well connected to home (technology, you see!). I don’t think that is a good solution though – by staying in constant contact with home you actually impede yourself from adapting to your new environment. Or integrating yourself with it. You begin to realize how far removed you are. It becomes harder to function, and eventually it gets harder to breathe. The only answer to all of this? Establish a happy median, in which you stay connected, but gradually lessen the connection.

I have been fortunate; I have had people who have come with me on this bumpy ride. Through the weight loss, Banbury, London, the Thunder Bay Fallout (that’s what we shall call it from here on). My Mom mainly, a couple of friends who have heard me ponder, breakdown, rise up, break back down, and remained fairly tolerant of my indecisiveness. I have made no secret of my commitment issues, but there comes a point that you have to commit to something. It is the same point at which you also realize that you need to move on with your life. So back to the original point of this entry – why am I not teaching closer to home? Because I want to experience life, and it is time for me to leave the safety net and establish my own independence. It is easier said than done, right? I just hope that as long as I maintain this displacement, I will continue with my desire to return.